By Vikas Agrawal, co-founder at Infobrandz, an elite team of visual communication experts taking content marketing to the next level.
The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a new age for business.
While many businesses were able to pivot from this disruption with relative ease, companies with rigid practices and immature digital strategies suffered devastating consequences.
Bankruptcy, debt and layoffs are just some of the unfortunate outcomes that have befallen those who failed to digitize.
Roughly 100,000 physical establishments permanently closed in the United States due to Covid-19, accounting for over a fifth of all physical establishments in the country.
With the ease of online shopping and digital transactions, coupled with the ongoing pandemic, the retail industry is undergoing a major transformation.
And with this change, one thing remains certain: Only those who embrace new technologies are the players that can capitalize on this upheaval.
Here are steps on how to help your business stay afloat in this new digital era.
1. Invest in the right technology platforms.
Immediacy and convenience are the key motivators for people to shop online. In this day and age, customers no longer want to go to a physical store, wait in line to pay and deal with crowds.
To keep up with this new shopping behavior, businesses should home in on the right online tools to make the customer shopping experience as seamless as possible.
This not only fosters a better customer experience, but it also helps build a digital ecosystem that drives operational efficiencies and scales your business as well.
However, there is such a thing as technology bloat. Too many tools that do not integrate can lead to two things: excess costs and convoluted internal processes.
Thus, before finalizing your purchasing decision, it’s important to consider four key factors.
• Will this technology improve the customer experience? (one-click checkout, personalization, ease of use)
• Will this technology help market my business? (marketing automation, better ad placement)
• Will this technology increase my operational efficiencies? (automation, data collection and analysis)
• Will this tool be able to withstand demand at scale?
By answering these questions and quantifying them to match your company’s objectives, you can identify the appropriate technologies for your business.
2. Optimize your digital storefront.
When a physical shop looks rundown or unkempt, you’d probably feel more inclined to shop elsewhere. The same belief crosses over in the digital space.
According to research by the Missouri University of Science and Technology, a website has less than two-tenths of a second to form an impression on a new customer. Once that chance passes by, it becomes significantly harder to change their initial thoughts about your brand.
It’s no secret that website design is important. But many people make the error of dismissing changes as soon as the website looks aesthetically pleasing.
Summarily, your website’s design should focus on two key elements: delivering a great user experience and moving customers towards conversion.
And once again, tech tools help you achieve this. Analytics tools provide crucial data on customer bounce rates and behaviors while a variety of store hosting apps and plugins assist in optimizing a site’s landing page design.
Website hosting platforms also offer A/B testing solutions to gauge authentic consumer behavior.
3. Accelerate the supply chain.
Another key factor in surviving this period of disruption is having a reliable and nimble supply chain.
Physical stores come with the advantage of providing immediate gratification to customers. However, for eCommerce businesses, there exists a critical point of friction in the buyer’s journey—shipping time.
With eCommerce powerhouses like Amazon flaunting two-day shipping as the norm, customers have come to expect fast delivery times. For small businesses that may not have the infrastructure to guarantee quick delivery, failure to meet that expectation can be a deal-breaker.
To meet these rising customer expectations, your business needs to be able to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently. This can be achieved by partnering with the right third-party logistics providers and shipping from multiple distribution centers.
An extra day or two can make all the difference in your business’s average customer lifetime value. If you can cut down the lag time in shipping, your business will likely be more attractive to customers and experience fewer order cancellations.
4. Boost your marketing presence.
The digital world has created a more competitive landscape for businesses. With consumers having more choices than ever, your business must stay ahead of the pack in terms of brand awareness.
One effective way to do this is to focus on SEO. By optimizing your website and content for search engines, you can ensure that your business appears as one of the first results when consumers are searching for products or services that you offer.
You can also use paid advertising to give your business a boost in terms of visibility. Paid advertisements have a short shelf life, so it’s important to constantly test and iterate different campaigns to capture customers’ attention.
In addition, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer a variety of ad types that can be customized to target your ideal customer.
5. Align the team with the vision.
Not everyone will be thrilled about sudden changes to their routine. When shifting focus to digital channels and customer-centric strategies, C-suite executives and middle managers might face resistance from a team that’s more comfortable with traditional business models.
Research supports this. According to a Kanerika digital transformation survey, 23% of executive-level respondents found it difficult to align traditional and digital setups among members of their team.
In a fully digital working environment, teams shouldn’t operate in silos. Instead, they should work together toward a shared vision to ensure the best possible outcome for the organization as a whole.
Some tips to align team members include:
• Providing explanations of how a team member’s contribution advances the company’s goals
• Facilitating knowledge sharing by investing in digital transformation training
• Establishing company-wide OKRs to ensure everyone is aware of the company’s overarching objectives
• Grounding the team to stay focused on the end-user
With the right strategies in place, your business can not only survive during periods of digital transformation—it can also thrive.